Prime minister Sheikh Hasina addresses an event at the Raffles Hotel in Doha on 24 May.PID

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina has made it clear that the next general election in Bangladesh will be held under her Awami League government and it will be free and fair.

“So under our government, definitely election will be free and fair,” she told a session titled "In conversation with prime minister Sheikh Hasina” of the Qatar Economic Forum at the Raffles Hotel in Doha on Wednesday.

Haslinda Amin, editor at-large of Qatar Economic Forum anchored the session. The prime minister is now in Doha on a three-day official visit mainly to take part in the Qatar Economic Forum 2023.

Her assertion came as the opposition BNP and its allies have launched a renewed campaign of street protests asking her government to step down to pave the way for holding the next election under a neutral caretaker administration.

Bangladesh is due to go to polls by December this year or in the first week of next year.

Responding to a question, she said that after the assassination of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, military dictators jeopardised all election process.

"The election was just a game (then)," she said.

She recalled that when the Awami League elected her as its president back in 1981 in her absence only then she could return to the country.

"Since then we started struggle for restoring democracy and people's right to vote. It was our struggle to ensure free and fair election. And we did it during our time in every election," she said.

Regarding the opposition BNP's demand, Hasina, also the president of ruling Awami League, said that in 2008 election nobody raised any question about it.

"What was the result then? The party (BNP) which is raising the question now got only 29 out of 300 seats in the Parliament," she said.

Sounding firm the prime minister said that she is here to ensure people's voting right, Because people should decide who will run the country.

"It is people's power, I want to ensure people's power. I am here not to grab power. Rather I want to empower our people that they should have their right to choose their government," she said.

Replying to a question, Hasina mentioned that now some parties said they will not participate.

"How will they participate? Because during their time the country suffered a lot. Our people suffered. At their time terrorist activities increased. Everywhere there was corruption, nepotism and exploitation. They never bothered about the people. It was very difficult for our people to get one meal per day. That was the situation," she said.

She said that after the Awami League came to power it has ensured everything for the people.

"It's the people's right to vote in election. What we have done now the people understand that. If they vote for us I am here, if they don't, ok fine," she said clearly.

The PM said that during her tenure there had been many by-elections, local government elections, which were free and fair.

"You can see, who is creating problem. We are not. But in every election some incidents may take place," she said.

She also mentioned that the government has asked everybody to send election observers to Bangladesh for the next voting.

"So I can tell you I am here to ensure my people's democratic right, voting right and it is our struggle," she stated.

She said that she is here to serve the country and its people so they could live a better and prosperous life.

"Bangladesh should be a developed country, that is my aim. Why should I try to jeopardise people's right that we have established. Definitely election will be free and fair."

She also termed BNP as a party of criminals and killers.

"They (BNP) may not feel comfortable. But, there are other parties, those parties will participate in the election," she said.

Replying to a question IMF's recent loan to Bangladesh, PM Hasina said the IMF assists only the country that can repay the loan. In providing the loan, the IMF considered whether the country can pay it back or not, she said

"We'll definitely be able to pay it back," said the PM.

The prime minister said Bangladesh has successfully overcome the fallout of Covid-19 pandemic due to her government's pragmatic plans and steps.